Digital Zone 227: Microsoft Gives Up

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In this edition of the Digital Zone, we talked about:

  • Research in Motion announces ‘PlayBook’
  • Texting crashes up
  • Apple tops in customer satisfaction
  • Apple grabs headlines
  • Amazon’s “Kindle for the Web”
  • Skype coming to Facebook
  • Microsoft moving to WordPress
  • Microsoft Office for Mac coming October 26
  • Twitter’s “Promoted Accounts”
  • Twitter surpasses MySpace traffic

RIM unveiled its ‘PlayBook’ tablet computer and said it won’t be available until early 2011. The PlayBook has a 7-inch display, weighs under a pound, has 1GB of memory, a dual-core processor, has dual HD cameras, HD video recording capability, and an HDMI output. The PlayBook supports MP3, AAC, and WMA, and capable of handling Apple and Microsoft proprietary audio formats and will support Adobe Flash Player and HTML5. The price for the new device wasn’t announced.

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A new study from the insurance industry finds texting while driving laws have had no immediate benefit in reducing crashes. The study looked at crash data from four states with texting bans. It found that in three of the states — California, Louisiana, Minnesota — crashes actually increased. The study spokesperson said the increase might be the result of drivers moving their phones down, of out public view, while they text and thus looking away from the road longer. Drivers distracted by talking or texting on cell phones killed an estimated 16,000 people from 2001 to 2007, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Apple’s iPhone is the number-one smartphone in customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power and Associates when measuring customer satisfaction for both traditional mobile phones and smartphones. Customers are keeping their mobile devices an average of 20.5 months, the longest period since the study began in 1999. The length depends on the brand, with the longest average period at 27.8 months, and the shortest at 17.5 months. The average monthly wireless service plan is now $78, including taxes and fees, compared to $69 three years ago. The increases are due to data services and additional usages, such as texting. But while service costs are increasing, device costs are dropping. The survey found the average price of a traditional wireless phone is now $76, down from an average of $81 at the beginning of last year. Nearly half of all respondents said they received a free mobile phone from their carrier as a result of subscribing to the service. When measuring satisfaction, the survey found that the key factors for smartphones are ease of operation for 26 percent of customers, operating system for 24 percent, physical design for 23 percent, features for 19 percent, and battery function for eight percent. On a 1,000-point scale for satisfaction, Apple’s devices rank 800 and took first place for the fourth straight survey. Second place was taken by Motorola at 791, with HTC third at 781. BlackBerry, Samsung, Palm and Nokia were next, in that order. Among traditional handsets, LG is highest for the fourth straight survey with a score of 731. Sanyo ranks second at 712, and Samsung third at 709. Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Kyocera took fourth through seventh places. The Power study indicates that more than two-thirds of users have downloaded games by third-party developers. Fifty-four percent have downloaded travel software, and 36 percent have done so for business applications. The Power study also found the three best-received mobile operating systems were Apple’s iOS, Google’s open-source Android, and Palm’s webOS.

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When it comes to the percentage of stories in the mainstream media, Apple grabs a commanding 15 percent of the coverage pie, according to the Pew Research Center. The Pew report found that most of Apple’s press — a good 42 percent — focused on how Apple products are “innovative and superior” compared with the competition, and 27 percent “lauded the company’s loyal fan base.” Apple does get negative press, too, with the study finding that 17 percent of mainstream-media stories on Apple focusing on how its products are “over-hyped.” Google came in at 11 percent of tech company coverage, with 25 percent of headlines homing in on how Google’s search technology helps make information “easier to find” and 20 percent on its “innovative and superior” products — decent. Twitter got 7.1 percent of tech company headlines, and Facebook got 4.8 percent.

Amazon unveiled “Kindle for the Web,” a program that allows Kindle electronic books to be read using a Web browser allowing users to embedded book samples on websites or shared through Facebook and Twitter. Users can click on a “Read First Chapter Free” button on selected Amazon books and a browser window opens featuring the sample chapter. The book can also be purchased directly from the browser. Bloggers or website owners who sign on to “Kindle for the Web” can earn referral fees from Amazon when customers buy books using the links on their websites. Amazon also announced a Kindle application for the upcoming tablet computer from Blackberry maker Research in Motion.

Facebook and Skype are working on a deal that would integrate Facebook with Skype accounts. Once Skype is connected with a Facebook account, a person will be able to text, chat, or call Facebook friends directly from Skype and be able to log into Skype with your Facebook credentials. The new features will be available when Skype 5.0 is released to beta in a few weeks.

Microsoft announced that its 30 million Windows Live Spaces bloggers will be moved to WordPress.com over the next six months instead of building or revamping its own blogging platform. Microsoft and Automattic have created a migration tool that will make it easy for existing Windows Live Spaces users to transfer their content and will give users the option to delete their existing Windows Live Spaces blog.

Microsoft announced that Office for Mac 2011 will officially be released on October 26 and come in 13 languages. There will be three different packaged versions and will sell for $119 – $279 depending on version and number of installs.

Twitter intends to make money on people who want more followers by introducing “Promoted Accounts.” Promoted Tweets will sell for $100,000. The press conference to introduce the idea is schedule for tomorrow.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter has surpassed MySpace in traffic, and taken a place in the top three busiest social networking sites. Twitter’s 96 million unique visitors last month (up 75% from last year!) topped MySpace’s 95 million (down 17%).

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